iDJ meets the Norwegian producer who's moving beyond simple 'Scandolearica'
Traditionally, Norwegian DJs and producers have tended towards the cosmic, often claiming to be more concerned with the 'feel' of a track than what genre it sits in. Even so, you'll struggle to find anyone quite as obsessed with atmosphere and texture as Henning Severud, AKA Telephones.
This month, the Bergen-born, Berlin-based producer is set to release his debut album for Gerd Janson's acclaimed Running Back label. Fittingly, it's titled Vibe Telemetry, and was inspired not by any particular musical genre - or group of styles, for that matter - but rather a hard-to-pigeonhole feeling.
"I don't even know how to describe it," he muses. "I just remember a feeling of hearing something on the radio, or in a club - something that was really new or interesting, a little bit mysterious, and a little bit intimidating, but also liberating in a way. I really wanted to make an album that sounds like that feeling. That's the best way can describe it".
Severud has been trying to channel this imprecise ‘feeling' for some time, particularly in his increasingly popular DJ sets. Like other Norwegian selectors - think Todd Terje, Prins Thomas, and DJ Sotofett, in particular - Severud has a reputation for mixing things up, preferring to cultivate an identifiable vibe in his impressively eclectic, loved-up sets.
"Within any particular genre, there's one thing I'm looking for," he says. "I find it hard to pin down, or explain, but there are certain things within every genre that hit me - a kind of vibe, I guess. That's also what I wanted to do with the album, to illustrate different styles, tempos and atmospheres, but within the same vibe. It's all coming from the same place".
To some, that place would be the often-maligned 'Balearic' ideology. It wouldn't be 100% accurate to call Vibe Telemetry a Balearic album - or even a 'Scandolearic' one, given his Norwegian nationality - but you could certainly imagine Alfredo, Mark Barrott or Jose Padilla playing certain tracks from it on the White Isle.
"I was never in Ibiza in 1992 - I was 10 years old, playing Sega on my TV at home! - but I still have this idea of the music that was played there," Severud says. "I have this mental construction of how it was. I'm trying to make this music, and it's partly inspired by a secondhand description of something that never took place, except in your brain. It's all a continuation of this eclectic approach, where you're more interested in a certain vibe than particular styles".
These are the good vibes
Those who listen to Vibe Telemetry will hear all sorts of influences within its 12 colourful, kaleidoscopic tracks. Variously, there are hints of Sueno Latino-era Italian deep house, the horizontal textures of early ambient house, the languid, melodic hypnotism of European new age music, the synthesizer-heavy throb of Italo-disco and the stargazing futurism of Detroit techno. Yet despite these multiple influences, and many more besides, the album never sounds anything less than a Telephones record - and a particularly cultured, atmospheric one at that. From start to finish, it's a pleasingly melodious, positive and loved-up concoction.
In that way it sits comfortably within his discography, despite feeling hazier and warmer than some of his previous releases. "I sometimes think that I have too many ideas, and too many melodies," he says. "Even of I'm just trying to make a really weird, non-melodic track, it still turns out melodious in the end. I don't know why. It's never really worked for me to try and force things. It's a stupid cliché, but I have to go with the flow. I have to find a better way of saying that, as it sounds pretty stupid!"
Severud first fell in love with electronic music making in the late 90s, but it was only when he moved to Berlin at the tail end of the noughties that he really started taking it seriously. This coincided with the beginnings of a bourgeoning love affair with outboard hardware - think analogue and digital synthesizers, drum machines and effects units - and the subsequent development of a working method that finally allowed him to easily translate his fabled 'vibe' into the tracks he was making.
"I had this desire to be in the middle of the sound waves passing through the synths, mixer and effects units," he says. "Sometimes I feel like I'm channelling something in a way. Maybe it sounds silly. I like to play around with stuff, send it here and there, touch things, tweak and fiddle, before going back to the computer to pitch things down, or do later. That's how it works best for me to make music."
He admits that this creative process can be a long one. Some of the tracks on the album contain elements of tracks or sound sketches recorded at various points over the last 17 years. He jams continuously, saving everything, before working out how to combine different beats, sounds, samples and ideas.
It's perhaps because of this approach that Telephones releases have been sporadic, to say the least, over the last six years. Since putting out the chugging, acid-flecked Norse disco of Kanal in 2010, Severud has released just three further singles: a collaborative EP with fellow Norwegian vibe obsessive DJ Fett Burger, the Balearic-minded Ocean Calling EP for Running Back, and the shimmering, sunset-friendly Lotusland on Love On The Rocks.
"If I cared about quantity, I could probably release 50 records a year," he asserts. "But I don't care about quantity - I care about quality. The way I make music, it doesn't allow for swiftness in the production phrase. I have to leave things to marinate for a bit. It's like an internal quality control."
He pauses, seemingly carefully considering his next sentence. "I think everything is too easy these days," he muses. "I don't want to participate in flooding the world with unnecessary music. I mean, if I'm going to release a record, I want a future version of myself to go into the attic in 20 years time, dig out a handful of records, and be happy with what he hears."
Words: Matt Anniss Pic: Pindar
Vibe Telemetry is out on Running Back on 14 October